Use your leap day to live life to the fullest

“Save the evening of Feb. 29,” my lovely wife, Grace, announced. “We’re having dinner with Toogie and Brevard.”
 
I hadn’t seen my aunt’s gentleman caller in a long time, which was fine by me. Brevard does shower Toogie with invitations to galas and goings-on with his South of Broad circle, but his penchant for one-upmanship grates me like fingers on a blackboard. 
 
Guessing Brevard surely would have selected a new, trendy restaurant for our outing, I asked, “Where are we going?”
 
“They’re coming here,” Grace answered. “We haven’t invited Brevard to our house in ages, and he is such an entertaining guest.” 
 
Sensing what I was thinking, she added, “And you be on your best behavior, too!”
 
When the evening arrived, Grace insisted I wear “an ensemble” she had purchased for me, a glen plaid sport coat and dark brown suede loafers. 
 
“Brevard will be very impressed with your shoes,” Grace said. “They’re Italian.”
 
When his nibs arrived, he was bedecked in a navy double-breasted blazer adorned with a multicolored pocket handkerchief. 
 
He gave Grace a bouquet of cheerful flowers and a big hug, declaring, “It has been a month of Sundays since I’ve seen you, dear.” 
 
I received a handshake, no mention of my shoes, but a tap on the lapel pocket of my sport coat with a whisper, “I’ll get you a handkerchief to add some flair to that jacket.”
 
Brevard also brought two bottles. One was a very recognizable bourbon; the other a wine which he held up announcing, “We need a decanter for this beauty.” 
 
We all headed to the butler pantry bar area, and I retrieved a decanter. Brevard held the wine bottle aloft proclaiming, “It’s a Lokoya Howell Mountain Cabernet, very hard to come by.” 
 
After letting that tidbit ripen for a moment, he launched into a soliloquy on the wine’s profound depth and complexity, and how it exudes an expressive bouquet of blackberry and cherry coupled with layers of violet and dark chocolate. 
 
Grace and Toogie’s oohs and ahs only egged him on to add that the grapes are grown at an elevation of 1,800 feet and display hints of graphite. 
 
Sounded like chewing on a pencil to me, but Grace and Toogie drank it all in.
 
The bourbon was a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, 23-year-old. I knew of it but had never seen a bottle up close. 
 
Maintaining control of the bar, Brevard explained that he keeps the bottle in his safe at home but brought it tonight to share “a unique before-dinner libation.” 
 
Grace and Toogie opted for a French 75, which Brevard prepared with an explanation of the proper portions of each ingredient. He then poured me some of the Pappy into an old-fashioned glass from my bar explaining it would be more aromatic had he brought some of his more bulbous bourbon glasses from downtown.
 
Dinner was one of Grace’s specials – beef bourguignon. Brevard pronounced it a culinary experience and a perfect pairing with the wine he had supplied. 
 
Over dinner, conversation drifted to the unique date of our dinner, Feb. 29 of a leap year. Toogie told about a high school friend born on Feb. 29 who celebrated a “real birthday” only every four years.
 
This sparked Grace to ask if there was something each of us had not done for the last four years that we would like to do again. Toogie mused for a while before sharing that she had not been back to her hometown in Alabama for many years, and it would be nice to do that.
 
“We’ll go!” Grace declared, looking my way. “Dalton loves road trips.”
 
“Time to reread Homer,” Brevard offered. “I try to read the Odyssey and Iliad every 10 years. They are a mystery revealed layer by layer each time one reads them.” 
 
I was going to add that they were all Greek to me when I had to read them in high school, but before I could, Grace and the others turned their attention my way for my “not in the last four year” reveal. 
 
When I didn’t offer anything right away, Toogie chuckled, “He hasn’t cleaned the garage in four years.” With this, Grace and Toogie were off and running.
 
“Or done the laundry.”
 
“How about unloaded the dishwasher?”
 
“Folded a bottom sheet.”
 
“Replaced the toilet paper roll!”
 
Soon they were both giggling loudly. “Oh wait, I got another one,” Grace said, paused, and began, “Well, in the bedroom…”
 
“Don’t go there!” I hollered.
 
They all looked at me. Finally Grace broke the silence explaining that she was going to tell how I don’t open the shades in the morning despite how many times she has asked. Somewhat relieved, but still feeling the center of attention, I changed the subject by asking how and why leap year came to be.
 
This was raw meat to Brevard who took the bait and ran with it explaining how the number of days in any fixed calendar was not precisely aligned with the length of the earth’s orbit of the sun. With that, he held court on the vernal equinox, the dates of Easter, and the Julian and Gregorian calendars.
 
Holding a fist up to represent the sun and the thumb of his other hand to represent Earth, he described how one orbit took close to 365 and ¼ days, and hence, the need for an extra day in the calendar every four years. Then, like a TV infomercial pitchman, he added, “But, wait, there’s more.”
 
This was the fact that the orbit was actually just a tad short of that extra ¼ day so the calendar makers decided there would be no extra “leap day” in years that end with two zeros unless the year is divisible by 400. 
 
This sounded too much like calculus to me until Brevard explained there was a Feb. 29 in the years 1600 and 2000, but none in 1700, 1800, or 1900. This was new news to me and possibly the first useful thing I had gleaned from Brevard. Maybe he was a nicer dude than I thought. Grace concluded our discussion remarking that the extra day was a compelling reminder to live each day to the fullest.
 
Later that evening, as Grace and I cleaned up dishes and glassware, she remarked, “Oh, my! Come look at this.”
 
I hurried to where she was in the butler pantry. There on the counter stood Brevard’s bottle of bourbon. My first thought was “he is a really nice dude,” but Grace interrupted that thought asking, “Isn’t this the bottle he keeps in his safe?”
 
I nodded yes as Grace continued, “We have to return this to him.”
 
I nodded again and she added, “When?”
 
Finally grasping control of the situation, I rubbed my chin, nodded once more, and answered, “Well, given the profound depth and complexity of tonight’s discourse, this is a mystery that must be revealed layer by layer over time. Given the significance of the four-year cycle of dates associated with this evening, I believe we should return it to him in 2028!”
 

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555

 

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